Iran 2016: From the Saudi embassy attack to the demise of Rafsanjani
The year 2016 was an internal and external test for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The February legislative elections represented strong support for both his administration and the nuclear accord with the P5+1 group of nations. But the lack of visible improvements at the economic level, the increasing internal criticism from the hardliners, and the demise of Hashemi Rafsanjani, the second most powerful man in Iran, made this the most difficult year of Rouhani’s tenure so far. At the international level, the confrontationist policy towards Saudi Arabia and direct military involvement in Syria caused a deterioration in the country’s external image, generating an increasing regional isolationism, despite the successful conclusion of the nuclear deal. The implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in January brought to an end the nuclear-related international sanctions and started a slow and gradual process of Iranian normalization within the international commercial and financial markets. However, the election of US President Donald Trump and his impending inauguration in 2017 introduced measures that would potentially endanger the continuity of the US-Iran honeymoon.